Skip to comments.The Our Father in the Catechesis of Teens
Posted on 06/17/2007 4:26:04 AM PDT by markomalley
The Our Father in the Catechesis of Teens
by Tom Richard, DFF
Teens and other beginners need to grow in prayer
A previous article1 discussed the special needs of adolescents for authentic prayer. In their human development, God is drawing them into a natural maturity which needs and deserves a corresponding spiritual maturity. As children, they learned the beautiful formula prayers of our Faith. Entering adulthood, they increasingly need a spirituality and hence a life of prayer which keeps pace with their naturally expanding human horizons. The growing intellect of adolescence needs the meaningful encounter with divine truth which is the mark of Christian meditation. The strengthening sense of self in adolescence, with its unique personal will, needs the meaningful encounter with the heart of Christ that is the mark of affective prayer. The deepening desire for community, for genuine relationship, beginning in adolescence truly requires the peaceful solitary rest in His presence that is the mark of the traditional prayer of simplicity. Adolescents, in their natural growing, need spiritual growth: they need to advance in prayer.
We see too many teenagers leave the Church, in the tumult of their adolescence, in search of meaning! This is a great contradiction, and a cause for embarrassment for us who remain. The prodigal son left, in his freedom: we cannot expect to save everyone the pain of poor choices. But if we fail to offer the bread that is needed, from the vast storehouses of our Catholic tradition, how can we stand guiltless before Him who entrusted us with so much? Fathers and doctors before us have enriched our Church with great depth of understanding of the spiritual journey, and the stages of prayerrelationship with God. Every generation in the Church, beginning with adolescence, in order to grow in relationship with Him and therefore in its own vocation, needs the fullness of that treasury of wisdom.
Not only adolescents, but many adults in the Church today need guidance in the journey of prayer. The Holy Spirit is our ultimate Spiritual Director, Who chooses, however, to work through the Church. Adults who never found guidance from the Church in prayer, for whatever reason, are poorly equipped to understand their own prayer life or to provide guidance to their children. The result is that many understand prayer to be wholly described by what the tradition of the Church knows as vocal prayer, which is the beautiful yet mere beginning of the journey of the soul toward God.
Stages or expressions in prayer
The Catechism describes the three major expressions of prayer as vocal prayer, meditation, and contemplation.2 Some Catholic writers name two stages within meditation as first that which is appropriate to the intellect, named meditation, and then the more interior, simple, and heart-focused meditation named affective prayer. At the very entrance to contemplation is a restful waiting, called the acquired prayer of recollection or the prayer of simplicity.3 For the sake of precision, it is helpful to think in these expanded terms: vocal prayer, meditation, affective prayer, the prayer of simplicity.
Vocal prayer is the first stage of prayer that we learn and enter, the first expression of prayer relationship with God that we experience. It is rightly called a stage, because as it is successfully experienced and expressed, it develops toward the deeper and more intimate communication that is meditation. It is rightly called an expression, because vocal prayer remains a desired means of communication with God no matter how developed or advanced is the soul in the life of prayer. Vocal prayer is the prayer of the Church; it is the voice in our liturgy. Vocal prayer, especially the traditional formula prayers of the Church, allow us to express with united voices our common yet personal utterance to God. We never graduate from vocal prayer: rather, progress in the life of prayer enhances with greater depth and more profound meaning, our communal life and our liturgical prayer.
The character of vocal prayer suggests the necessities within it, in order that it be successful. Those necessities, or requirements for success, suggest the development and the direction in prayer for the soul as it grows toward the Lord. The required, necessary characteristics of vocal prayer are attention and devotion.4 Vocal communication with any person requires attention: one must know who he is, and something of the person to whom he speaks. One must be also alert to the meaning of the words he is using, for the thoughts and intents to be communicated. When there is real relationship between the two persons, or when real relationship is sought, there must also be devotion: genuine affection appropriate to the relationship gives the conversation the human wholeness which any authentic communication deserves. That is, truly human conversation is of two dimensions, reflecting the intellect and the will. Human conversation involves both mind and heart. Vocal prayer as well requires, to be successful, the engagement of the intellect and the will, in attention and devotion.
Proper attention and devotion in vocal prayer suggest the direction of development in prayer. As conscious attention grows, the soul is moving closer and closer to the prayer of meditation. As devotion grows in vocal prayer, the soul is growing in capacity for deeper devotion in meditation, which is the movement within meditation toward what is called affective prayer. In affective prayer, a communication bond has been established of both mind and heart (intellect and will) with the Lord. The fullness of this expression leads, without contradiction, to both fewer words and greater communication. That is, the prayer of simplicity, in which the soul finds the great delight of quiet rest in the present reality of God, is approached as prayer develops according to its own inner nature.
Helping teens grow in prayer
Prayer is personal communication; prayer develops as relationship develops. These simple truths are especially relevant and understandable to teens, as they experience in their growing sense of being a person the growing need for authentic relationship. There is a straightforward analogy between deepening communication in a growing friendship, and deepening prayer communication in a growing relationship with God.
Initial Stage of Relationship
The stages or expressions of ascetical prayer just described are easily recognized by teens in their natural quest for meaningful human relationship. Before real relationship has deepened, human conversations are typically superficial. At this stage of relationship there is little or no affection involved: corresponding conversation usually involves information with minimal personal investment. The corresponding initial stage of relationship with God is communicated in the beginning stages of vocal prayer. These beginning attempts at communication reflect the first degree of charity, that attained in the purgative stage, manifested at best as a holy fear of God that moves the soul to avoid sin.5 Such fear is the beginning of wisdom, and is but little on which to base personal relationship. Advancement in charity is needed. Consequently, beginning prayer can manifest a mechanical recitation of formula prayers and guarded, cautious expressions of spontaneous prayer. Shallow relationship is reflected in shallow communication, whether between human persons or between a human person and God.
Intermediate Stage of Relationship
In human relationships, if two persons discover in their initial conversations a possible ground for deeper relationship, they venture forth with a more personal communication analogous to meditation. That is, their initial talks grow in self-disclosure, to explore thoughts and attitudes regarding truths of personal importance. They investigate what each thinks about this or that matter, searching for opinions and beliefs held in common, or those on which they differ. They seek common ground first in the intellect: they seek a meeting of the mind. In our relationship with God, this engagement of the mind with revealed truth, for enlightenment of the intellect and for guidance of the will, is what we call meditation. This stage of communication in prayer follows the development of attention required in initial vocal prayer, just as deeper exploration of the mind naturally follows the initial conversations of human relationship. This development is quickly understood by teens, and is relevant to them in their personal experience.
Discovery of a common mind can lead to genuine friendship when there is as well a meeting of the hearts. When the truths found in agreement are recognized as being of personal importance to each of the two, being truths to value and to live by, then a relationship of greater depth becomes possible. A unity of the two in both mind and heart is a basis for true friendship, which is one of the most important needs of adolescence. So also true meditation is meant to lead into a simpler and more interior agreement with God: the resonances with His will which so warm the heart of a person in affective prayer.
Thresholds of Intimacy
The maturing of friendship can lead to such closeness of persons that merely being together gives happiness. Two who share authentic friendship can sit together for periods of time when no conversation is needed: communion is sensed without words, based on their established knowledge and relationship. This depth of friendship is treasured by adolescents who have it, and wanted by those who do not. God is releasing in them a powerful capacity and desire for intimacy, for a human communion which anticipates their supernatural destiny of communion in the Holy Trinity. Teenagers have then, by Gods work in them, a natural predisposition toward that depth of relationship with Him which finds expression in what we call the prayer of simplicity.
Formula prayers as bridges to deeper prayer relationship
Formula prayers of the Church are excellent bridges from initial vocal prayer to meditation, and further to affective prayer and the prayer of simplicity. They are doctrinally sound, easily remembered, and common to the family of the Church. Because they are doctrinally sound they are trustworthy: we need not doubt that we are praying with right intention when our minds cohere with these prayers. It is true that their familiarity presents a dangerous temptation: one can easily fall into thoughtless repetition; one can easily follow distractions, losing the necessary attention and devotion. Yet these treasures of our tradition offer us concise and true formulas of the Faith. They invite us into truth in the depths of their simplicity; they challenge us to the zeal, the devotion, that their truth deserves.
Because they are easily remembered, formula prayers remain with us in times of crisis, when other prayer expressions do not seem available or possible. It is true that adolescents need true engagement of their minds and hearts with divine truth, hence they need deeper prayer beyond initial vocal prayer. The vocal prayers they learned as children are not adequate to communicate fully their emerging adult lives with God, when those prayers are understood at the level of childhood. Yet the formula prayers memorized as children remain with them in crisis times, and can be seized in those times as saving graces from God. It is for two reasons, then, that teens especially need to deepen their understanding of the formula prayers. First, that those prayers may communicate necessary meaning and depth adequate to the crises of adolescence. Second, that those prayers may grow with the adolescent into deeper prayer relationships with God.
The great formula prayers of the Church are both normative and formative. The Our Father holds the highest place among our formula prayers, being taught by Christ directly. Many holy saints have written beautifully of this prayer, yet never exhausting the mystery and the beauty it contains. The Our Father has the potency necessary to fill all expressions of our ascetical prayer, hence carrying us all (and the adolescent in particular), to the threshold of infused contemplation and into the arms of the Lord.
Other transitions to deeper prayer relationship: Scripture
Before proceeding with the example of the Our Father, it is good to note the special value of Scripture for our teens, in their need to encounter truth. It is not unusual among Catholic teens, although it is sad and unfortunate, to find so little knowledge of Scripture. Not only is factual knowledge wanting, but the heart-felt devotion which should follow knowledge is lacking also. The life history of many Catholic teens has left them with an ignorance of Catholic doctrine in general and Sacred Scripture in particular. CCD curricula which overemphasized subjective experience at the expense of objective content, although now growing in disfavor, can still be found in use. Attentive parishioners can receive solid and important Catholic teaching in the homily, yet still leave the liturgy without growth in their own personal devotion to Scripture.
Ignorance of Scripture is a serious problem for Catholic teens for several obvious reasons. Relevant to this paper, they are missing an essential encounter with revealed truth, and a means for their growth in faith. As ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ, to recall St. Jerome, our youth are greatly handicapped in developing a personal relationship with their Lord. If relationship is impeded, so also is prayer.
Teens need to encounter truth, in increasing scope and depth, for their growth in faith relationship. Scripture, being uniquely the inspired Self-revelation of God, is revealed truth and more. It is indeed God speaking to us, a response to our prayer-communication to Him. In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet His children, and talks with them.6
Use of Scripture in teen catechesis, then, is essential. The reality of growing up with Jesus, as He is in truth, as He is revealed to His Church, is the birthright of all baptized Catholics.
Meditation on the Our Father
The Our Father is a formula prayer of the Church. It is also a formative prayer, at work in the soul , forming the soul that perseveres with it according to its content. That sacred content, delivered to the Apostles by Jesus Himself, will certainly not be exhausted by this paper! Many saints and doctors of the Church have written extensively on this prayer. This paper presents a discussion of the prayer with a special view to adolescents and their needs.
The need of many teens, in order to advance in a life of prayer, is to increase both the attention and the devotion invested in vocal prayer. They need to slow down and listen to the powerful and meaningful words they are expressing. Those ready to move to meditation need a structure that will enable their time with this prayer to truly engage them with its profundity. Those ready to deepen their meditative prayer, to the simpler and heart-felt communication in affective prayer, need to have opened for them the full call to obedience in holiness which lies within. The Our Father contains the potency of all this and more. Like the Good Shepherd Himself, this prayer would lift and carry us to the home of the Father, and place us at the very door of His contemplative Presence: that is, to the prayer of simplicity.
The following presentation of the Our Father is intended to facilitate for the teen all of the movements above: to help in a deeper grasp of the meanings of the words, to uncover a structure of truth calling us to know and to follow a life of sanctity, and to find a rest in His call. This movement is the entire sequence of ascetical prayer, leading us to the threshold of infused contemplation. Having knocked, the teen or the soul of any age can wait confidently on the One Who has promised to answer and to open.
The structure which can be seen in the prayer can be abbreviated 1, 2, 3, 4. This sequence of numbers is interesting in itself, and can be arranged in a triangle.
1. Formation into Oneness with God, which is our Vocation: Father
The Our Father begins with the assertion of great intimacy with God. In the Greek language, the theology is rightly expressed: Father of us. That is, first is affirmed our relationship with God, which is expressed as that of child to father. Because this relationship is that of family, we find ourselves speaking in word, in prayer, the reality of the covenant established by Christ in our salvation. Covenant is much more than legal agreement, it is solemn family bond established by oath. In this case, it is a covenant of blood establishing the family of God, brothers and sisters of Christ by adoption.
Many teens--many persons--have experienced human fathers far less than the Father our hearts are made to long for. This can be a temporary stumbling block, for the young person seeking to hear the deep truth of this prayer. Because of our innate desire for Him, we can and do look beyond failures we may have experienced at the hands of our human fathers, but sometimes a while is needed to do this. This assertion Father is at the very beginning of the prayer, as the assertion of the great love of God is at the beginning of the gospel itself. We cannot deal with the sins of others, nor can we bear to see the sins of ourselves, without the gracious assurance of the great love of God.
The first word of this perfect prayer, then, is our call to God from within the love of His covenant. It is our call in response to His call. Covenant, family communion with Him, is our vocation. This is the 1 of the 1-2-3-4 of the prayer.
2. Formation with the Two Necessary Commandments: Our Father
Unity with God is our vocation, in which we are formed through the living of Christian life. This life can be summarized, briefly, as life in obedience to the two great commandments, to love God completely and to love ones neighbor as oneself (Mk 12:39-41). This foundation necessary for life can be heard in the phrase Our Father. Through the covenant of His blood, our vocation is to love God completely as Father. Through the truth of human relationship affirmed in the word our, we are called to love every person.
The intense sense for fairness which is awakened in teens, finds home in this word our. We can affirm the equality of all persons before God, in the sense of justice, with this word our. We have no freedom to disregard any person. We are not allowed before God to disrespect, or ignore, or abuse any human person because we are all brothers and sisters by this word our. We have always been brothers and sisters through our common ancestry in Adam and Eve, but now even more by His blood. In the New Covenant, all are called and recalled to our Father. This is the 2 of the 1-2-3-4 of the prayer: the two Great Commandments of love.
As Christ said, "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets" (Matt. 22:40). It is important, in these relativistic times, for our teens to ground their moral lives upon the solid foundation of the Commandments of God. In the Morality section of the Catechism, we find the virtues expressed and expounded. But we find also the Ten Commandments set before us by the Church, still valid to judge our lives today.7
3. Formation with the Three Theological Virtues
Faith: Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.
Hope: Thy Kingdom come.
Charity: Thy will be done, on earth as in heaven.
The theological virtues infused into the soul at Baptism, strengthened by the other sacraments, order us in our journey toward God and the things of God. The Our Father calls forth these virtues, and works to form the soul in their exercise. The teen is helped in this correspondence, and is encouraged to remember the grace of Baptism and to walk in that grace.
It is only in faith that we speak to God Who is Spirit and not flesh, Who is not visible or tangible, Who indeed is in heaven. The One we call to in faith: this One we value, indeed His Name we hallow. Faith uniquely is the conviction of things not seen (Heb. 11:1).
In hope alone we look to a kingdom not of this world, but of one to come (Rom 8:24-25). There is a great poverty of hope in our culture, and in our times. Materialism and hedonism have no place for true hope, but only breed despair and negativity which infects even the young. Our teens need true hope. The human soul is made for hope, is given the power to hope in Baptism into Christ, but is deeply wounded by the hopelessness of this culture. The Our Father calls forth and renews true hope in the Kingdom for which we were made, and which is our home.
Our communion with the will of God brings forth charity upon the earth. What is the will of God? We find in His commandments laws of love, and the more complete the revelation of His will, the more perfect is the standard of love to which we are called. The new commandment, revealed by Christ and first in Him, is the command to love as He loved. But from the beginning His will has been for lives of love: For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another (1 John 3:11).
Young people are particularly sensitive to the call to love, even to the specific love we understand as charity. Put simply, that charity is love for God and love for others because of God, young people quickly sense the unique meaning of this virtue. They have typically experienced lessor examples of what is called love, but what is obviously less than the virtue of charity. Teens quickly grasp what can be termed mercenary love: that which is called love, but is directed toward oneself, and ordered toward ones own profit or pleasure. They sense the powerful temptations to be mercenary in love, but also they sense the ideal and the beautiful in true charity.
Faith, hope, and charity as infused virtues are essential to the Christian life. They can be wounded and even lost through sin: this the young Christian must come to understand. Sins against faith, against hope, and against charity are entirely possible to a person above the age of reason, crippling or destroying his journey toward God. Zeal for the good, repentance when fallen, recourse to the Sacrament of Penance, dependence upon the grace of Eucharist -- all these are extremely important to the teenager, and are to be encouraged to him. In the Our Father, he is speaking into being, so to speak, the formation by these virtues which he so needs. This then is the 3 of the 1-2-3-4 of the Our Father.
4. Formation and Elevation of our Four Natural, Human, Cardinal Virtues
Temperance: Give us this day our daily bread
Justice: And forgive us . . . as we have forgiven . . . .
Prudence: And lead us not into temptation.
Fortitude: But deliver us from evil.
The Church has traditionally seen all human virtue as being grouped in some way around the headings of the four cardinal or hinge virtues.8 It is helpful to any Christian, and particularly to an adolescent in our culture, to see these cardinal virtues called forth by the last four petitions of the prayer. For the adolescent, meaning in the prayer itself is enhanced by this correlation, and sensitivity to the virtues is also increased. Both of these positive results are important for teens who need to grow in their understanding of this fundamental prayer, and who need to advance in a life of virtue. These four virtues, being cardinal, are basic to a life of virtue.
First, temperance is called forth in the prayer for daily bread. Temperance is anathema in our culture of hedonistic excess, in which our teens find themselves, yet temperance is a virtue which the young soul needs. Teens can be led to meditate on this petition as one which recognizes our material needs, yet which is content with true need and not selfish want. Moderation in anything is valued less and less, as our society grows more outrageous in its cravings for self-satisfaction. In our prayer from Jesus, we form a different attitude, and grow in a different direction.
Next, the virtue of justice is called forth, strangely, in a call for mercy. We ask for forgiveness as we have forgiven, hence we ask for mercy under the title of justice. This juxtaposition startles us, yet forces us to see the participation in Gods work which is our vocation. Teens, not unlike many adults, can be judgmental: they want justice, they cry out for fairness in the world around them. Justice is good, but our Lord links justice with our real need to be forgiven, and our real vocation to be ministers of the forgiveness of God for others.
The virtue of prudence is called forth in the petition to be led not into temptation. Teens can well understand the power of temptation: a whole new emotional and sensory world has awakened in them. Prudence is needed; practical reason is called for, lest we lead ourselves into temptations we can not handle. Teenagers face great temptations on many fronts, but perhaps common to many areas of temptation is an attitude among their peers that disdains any reasoned consideration of consequences. Consequences seem somehow unfair, and they dampen ones fun, and are best ignored. Such fantasies can be deadly to the adolescent, both physically and spiritually, in our contemporary world.
Lastly, fortitude is called forth in the final petition for deliverance from evil. There is a real enemy of our teenagers: an evil one. We are exhorted, Be sober; be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). How can we resist him? On our part, we need fortitude. The call to be strong, to be firm in the good, to conquer fear, to face trials and to live sacrificially, these are challenges which the natural bravery of adolescence wants to hear.
In praying the Our Father, we take our stand on Gods side; we pray with His will, His mind and heart. In this way, in making the prayer of Jesus our own, we offer our souls to be formed according to His truth. As adolescents come to understand the powerful formative potential of this prayer, they realize the great value of a treasure which is already theirs. They know this prayer; all that remains is to experience more and more the infinite depth it offers.
Catechesis of this prayer with teens demonstrates several things. First, teens are aware that the mindless repetition of memorized prayers seems something less than true prayer. Those teens who have been encouraged toward spontaneous prayer may feel awkward also about this way of praying, when they have little experiential relationship with the God to whom they try to speak. Making the analogy of prayer with communication in human relationship is therefore helpful. Teens are acutely aware of, need, and value human relationship. The less-well-understood state of their relationship with God can be better understood, by analysis of their prayer life. Once understood, both their relationship with God and their prayer life are open for improvement.
Secondly, teens are happy to learn that they can deepen their prayer-relationship very simply: by paying attention to what they are saying in the great formula prayers of the Church, and by being sincere in their prayer. Honesty is important in their human relationships; it is an easy step to acknowledge its importance in prayer as well.
Lastly, it is difficult to imagine a more important, more beautiful, more meaningful prayer to use as matter for catechesis than the Our Father. We can only be enriched as a Church, we can only help our teenagers, as we enter more fully into the truth of this prayer.
That is one thing that the article is stating. The prayer, in of itself, is a tremendous catechesis.
Did you realize that the final 100 paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is written around that prayer? Just a little trivia for you there...
I should say, if you’re mindlessly repeating it, you might as well sit down and have a coke - you’re wasting time.
I sort of agree with you, but not exactly. The repeated words, in of themselves, do not accomplish anything of themselves (they are not an incantation), but...
As an example, my family prays the blessing before every meal: Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
You're absolutely right that those words have little or no meaning in of themselves. But think about the catechesis behind those words:
Do we go through that little catechesis every night? No. Have we gone through it? Yes. Do we take long and forever praying that each night? No. Do those things (at least part of them) come to mind as we pray that? Yes, certainly.
And that is my point: if you take a few minutes and consider what it is that you're praying, you will mentally call to mind these things as you pray that verbal prayer. You will certainly turn your eyes to God when you do so.
That, in of itself, has value.
But, again, the words, in of themselves, if they are simply prayed without thought, without consideration, without turning your mind and heart toward God, are not going to have meaning.
I don't think sin sends someone to hell or that salvation depends on keeping His law. I do think you need to repent of your sins to be in "good standing" with Father. Salvation depends on if you accept Jesus or not. However, I don't believe in "once saved always saved". I think you can turn your back on Him - He will never leave you but we can leave Him.
How would "sin break the relationship between Father and Son"?
Just show me a scripture that God says He is the father of all humanity . There is no such scripture. Those that believe that are building a non scriptural God that meets their expectations . He is not the God of the bible.
Is there a scripture that says he is NOT the Father of all humanity? Please explain how I am building a "non scriptural God to meet my expectations" by believing He, as the Creator, is Father to all. How does that make Him, "not the God of the Bible"?
Mat 13:38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked [one];....Jhn 8:44 Ye are of [your] father the devil
I too believe the tares are the children of Satan, through Cain. He is their earthly ancestor but isn't God, as creator of all, the Heavenly Father of all?
I see what you are saying, " All the human children of God are adopted by faith." I guess we just have to disagree about this. I see all as being born with Him being their heavenly Father. What we do in our life, the decisions we make decide whether we will be with Him or not.
To me it would be like us having several children. Some may love us and always want to be with us while others decide they want nothing to do with Dad and Mom. Would that decision make them any less our child? Also, even if you greatly loved a child but they continued to do terrible things and would not repent you would not allow them to enter your home with your other children. They're still your child but they have essentially been disowned. I think that is the position of the "tares" in the scripture you quoted. If they repent they would be accepted back.
This is an interesting discussion Ears to Hear - Thank you
I wasn't a "beginner" when I hit 13. Makes the rest a bit suspect.
“Our Father...” Good Hebrew prayer.
Thanks for adding so much to the understanding of the roles of both sons in this parable. It’s interesting how somewhat frequently in Scripture the contrasts of sons (or sisters/brothers) are there to help us reflect on both sides of a parable, or an actual incident in Scripture.
Just to mention two—Martha and Mary, both having something to teach us about serving the Lord; and the parable of the two brothers, each of whom said they would do a special job for their father.
We are always able to view the contrasts and take into our hearts certain lessons that each can give us. All three of you have added thoughts to this parable that gave me new insights to consider.
Well, good for you! I'm glad that God has blessed you with such a tremendous gift. I'm also glad that God has given you the confidence to declare boldly that you've been granted such a tremendous grace in your life.
By the way, the above is honest admiration, not sarcasm. If you were not a "beginner" when you hit 13, I can only imagine how powerful your prayer life is now.
As for me, I was pretty much a beginner until I hit 40 or so. In many ways, I still am. So I guess there's room for both sides. You know, I still have to humbly ask God for the grace to give me the words to say when I verbally pray? You know, I still have to humbly ask God to enlighten my eyes when I open the scriptures? You know, when I meditate on a scripture or silently pray and open my heart to God's majesty in adoration, there are times that I still get distracted?
It is my fervent wish that someday I could honestly and without being a braggart call myself a true prayer warrior. But until that time, I just have to humbly go my way, trusting God to provide for me moment by moment. And for somebody like me, the use of such an article could have provided considerable insight when I was a youth.
Not meant that way. My folks taught more than rote prayer growing up, so it was always more than mere recitation (except for grace, which was always “Bless us oh Lord and these thy gifts etc).
But you never become an “expert” by any means. It’s a journey.
Honestly, unless one is repeating words in a foreign language of which one has no knowledge (as, for example, I could sing a song in memorized Gaelic, with no idea what the words meant), then it seems impossible for the use of the words to have no connection at all to the contemplation of the meaning and intention.
Yes, one's mind can drift, but even to begin saying the Our Father, one had to have the intention of raising the heart and mind to "Our Father, who are in Heaven."
Yes, one's mind can drift, but even to begin saying the Our Father, one had to have the intention of raising the heart and mind to "Our Father, who are in Heaven.
And that's exactly my point. Even a recited prayer (like a Psalm) turns the pray-er's heart to the object of that prayer.
That's true! Having so many sons, I often reflect on brothers in the Bible, and wonder what the odds are for mine to turn out well :-).
It's interesting that the conflict between brothers is the first development after the Fall, and that it seems to manifest so early in life. I was reading to some of my sons earlier, with my 1-year-old sitting beside me. The 3-year-old came up and put his head on my knee, and his brother immediately shrieked and whacked him on the head with the book! (Didn't hurt him, James has a head like a cinder block.) My three youngest boys can be like puppies fighting over a bone sometimes.
We have taught the same to our daughter, as well, since she was too young to really understand. But there are a lot of children who don't have that benefit. They are old enough to understand but weren't taught. Perhaps their parents didn't know. Perhaps their parents were lazy. Or whatever.
The article discusses how to use this rote prayer as a method of teaching important truths about more deep and personal methods of prayer. And I can't see how that's bad.
I often suggest the Psalms to my children or my students at church. Anything we need to say to God, at any time in life, can be found in the Psalms!
40 or so - you lucky duck. How about 58?
It gives new meaning to the parable of the prodigal son (daughter)and the one about latecomers working in the field. Thank goodness Father is so very forgiving.
I think it also shows that our salvation is not based on works but the mercy of God, but there is a judgment of rewards and those that remain faithful will have a special reward.
I don’t disagree with you at all. I was really addressing those who object to rote prayers. Praying the Rosary is another way to do it. You don’t stop and think about each word every time you say it. Sometimes the mind drifts away, then you bring it back. Over the course of saying the Our Father what, 35 times or something, you DO end up meditating on the meaning of each clause.
I think a little pause before and after the meal blessing to ponder the meaning is nice. I prefer it to the holding hands and endless freeform by the “best pray-er” at the table. I find free-form prayer to be self-indulgent and redundant. I also find the hand-holding to be “gay”, not necessarily homosexual, but unwanted contact that doesn’t come about organically, but is ordered by someone else.
That’s why I don’t like “The Peace” very much. Forcing people to have physical contact with strangers that they don’t want to contact is not only non-scriptural, it’s unpleasant and makes some people not want to come to church. Not that people aren’t welcome to contact each other any time they want! I just don’t like it coerced. I feel like I need to wash my hands after. I take communion on the tongue now, so I don’t have to worry about touching the Host, but I used to.
My best buddy in the choir and I have taken to doing an ancient peace passing. We face each other and do a significant (but not profound) bow. Then we sort of smirk because we feel a little bit naughty, I’m not sure why.
Don't get me started on that one. I remember visiting one parish years ago that actually doing the "kiss of peace." literally. Arrgghh.